Book Review: Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing

To join the discussion about Free, or to order a copy, go here Free book cover

Free, by Mark and Lisa Scandrette, is a self-improvement book for Christians who’ve lost sight of the main thing in their lives.

Americans are distracted and over-stimulated. We’re all hoarders of one sort or another, whether it’s experiences or cash. It seems that whatever we do, we take it past our benefit to our harm.

Free is designed to lead its readers into a structured self-analysis which, hopefully, will show them ways to let go of the things that they are holding onto so tightly. It tries to encourage readers to back away from the greed for experience, money, stuff that is frazzling and entrapping them.

I suppose whether or not this works depends mostly on the person who is reading the book. If you’re the sort of person who takes tests in magazines and on internet web sites to determine what kind of lover you are or how long you may live, then Free is your kind of book.

The first chapter of Free asks you to stop for a moment and consider one thing: What matters most to you.

Of course, the long answer to that can and does change as people travel through life. Passing your driver’s license test may rank pretty high on your list when you’re 16, while having enough money to send your kids to college might be more important in your 40s or 50s. Keeping your health becomes a major goal as you age, and my 88 year old mother can tell you that just hanging on to your memory is a big goal later on.

These transitory goals and concerns are not unimportant because they are transitory. They matter. The reason they matter is that they are the stuff of life. We don’t live our lives in mountaintop experiences where the only reality is some transcendent notion of eternal good. We live our lives down here in the daily pits where getting a driver’s license or sending your kids to school make a difference in the quality and scope of the time we have.

The trick is how to separate the flotsam from the things that make a difference. Watching tv 24/7 is a waste of life. Oddly enough, so is spending you precious time as a career-obsessed money slave chasing after gold for its own sake. Everybody has to make a living, but making money is only useful to us when it supplies the goods that make life livable. When chasing after a buck becomes the purpose of life, then that endless chase after the carrot that’s always a bit too far ahead becomes just as much a waste of life as vegging on the sofa watching tv.

The truth is, life itself, by itself, never has meaning that can transcend the dailiness of what it is. Getting and spending are empty. Even living and loving has an emptiness at its core.

This is because we are hybrid creatures. We are bound by our physical selves to a physical existence ruled by the temporal realities of time and inevitable death. Seen this way, everything we do is, as Solomon put it, “vanity.”

Only God can give meaning to our lives because only God transcends our living,. As I said, we are hybrid creatures. While we live out our days in this life within the limitations of our physical existence, there is in each of us a longing for transcendence. We ache for the immortality we cannot see but know is there. Meaning in this life is found in the reality of the transcendence of God.

When we look at our span of years and the things we do with them in the light of that transcendence and our unrealized part in it, then even the most daily of endeavors takes on dimensions of meaning that give them deep dignity. There is satisfaction is living life within the scope of a transcendent God. What we do matters. Everything we do matters. And we matter, too.

The trick is keeping the main thing the main thing. Even while we are caught up in the dailiness of our lives, we can know and understand that we are also part of the great web of eternity, that our smallest actions are writ large in the overall scheme of things in ways that we cannot know now.

We are children of the living God.

And that is the main thing.

Stop Slogan-Voting. Stop Hate-Voting. Stop Being Manipulated. Part 4. I Vote Pro-Life = Slogan-Voting

Power corrupts. Lord Acton

You cannot serve both God and mammon. Jesus Christ

 I vote pro-life!

Pro-life people sometimes make this statement as if they were throwing down a gauntlet, or perhaps, ending an argument. Talk to them about the many nuances of grown-up politics and they will try to end the inevitable confusion by announcing emphatically, “I vote pro-life!”

The unhappy truth is that they can’t vote pro-life. “Pro Life” ain’t on the ballot.

All they have to choose from when they go vote is people. That’s why candidate ratings by pro-life groups have such power. Voters don’t have any other way to judge.

There is a strategy of sorts behind all these ratings. It’s two-pronged. The first goal, the one I am directly engaged in as a state legislator, is to elect legislators who will vote to whittle away at Roe v Wade gradually, to inflict a death of a thousand cuts on the killing machine. The second goal is to stack the United State Supreme Court with pro-life justices so that they will one day overturn Roe v Wade.

The first goal, the whittling away goal, is having an impact. But it’s reaching its practical limits. Supreme Court decisions that are designed not only to legalize abortion, but to ensure its availability, maintain a protective barrier around legal abortion. There are only so many ways in which we can whittle away at these decisions and remain within the law.

The second goal of stacking the Court is an utter failure, a debacle. After almost forty years, all it has given us is a court that found that life begins, not at conception, but at incorporation.

How did that happen? It happened because that’s what the people who appointed these justices wanted to happen.

Neither political party wants Roe v Wade to go away. Republicans would lose their vote-getting machine. Democrats would lose their money-raising machine. They need Roe v Wade, or at least the corporations who own them do, to keep us from considering what a lousy job both of them are doing of governing this country.

We are at a stalemate. We have been for forty long years. Pro life people engage in this Sisyphean struggle, laboriously rolling the electoral ball up the hill over and over again. Every time they do it, they let themselves believe that things will be different this time.

Republican legislators ardently support pro-life when they are out of power. Oklahoma Republicans fought like tigers for pro-life legislation when Democrats had the majority. They held legislators accountable for every squeak of a vote. They made speeches that sounded so sincere they would make a pro-life mother weep.

When they gained a majority in the House, they continued the fight against the Democratic Senate and the Democratic Governor. They were, once again, pro-life champions. But as soon as they won the whole thing — house, senate, governor, every office from top to bottom — they started killing pro-life bills.

They were careful at first. They only killed pro-life bills that didn’t count toward their pro-life-legislator rating from Oklahomans for Life. That way, they could still claim to be “100% pro life” when they campaigned.

Pro-life bills backed by organizations such as the Family Research Council and Americans United for Life bit the dust. These “100% pro-life” legislators killed every pro-life bill that didn’t affect the 100% rating that they used in their campaign ads.

They also passed pro-abortion laws. The worst I remember is a law that puts drugs that will induce chemical abortions, as well as date-rape drugs on the shelves in veterinary supply shops where anyone can buy them without a prescription.

As I’ve said in other posts, I knew that some of my colleagues were hypocrites. But I was still amazed by their arrogant bullying of their own supporters. That alone was enough to surprise me. But witnessing the way the pro-life activists sold out to them almost pushed me to despair.

I am certain that if a Democrat had tried to pass a bill putting abortifacients on the shelves where anyone could walk in and buy then, they would — and should — have been legitimately criticized for being amoral and pro death. I would have helped call them out. But almost no one would do anything when this amoral, pro-abortion bill came from the Republican leadership acting on behalf of a major “conservative” lobby.

One pro-life group did make a statement opposing the bill, but they were unable to maintain their stand in the face of the Republican leadership. The only pro-life voice that came out against this bill and didn’t back down was the Catholic Church.

The next year, these “100% pro-life” legislatorsabandoned the inconvenience of passing the pro-life bills that went on their pro-life ratings. They killed almost all the pro-life legislation for 2012, including over half the bills sponsored by Oklahomans for Life.

How did they get away with this? They did it the old way; behind closed doors, with secret votes, ruse votes on meaningless resolutions and procedural moves; the same way that pro-life bills have been dying since the 1970s.

Then, as has become standard practice with them, they forced the pro-life organizations who had supported these bills to back down, kiss Ceasar’s ring and apologize for trying to hold these “100% pro-life” legislators accountable for their actions. It was shameless.

How did this happen?

The answer is easy, if you have the stomach for it. Republicans need pro-life voters when the two parties are close. That pro-life percentage can make a difference in a close election.

Once their hold on the electorate is established, the real owners of the party step from behind the curtain. Money, as they say, talks.

The pro-life issue is the vacuum that sucks in the votes for the Republican party. But the big money people own the party and most of them are either pro-choice or they don’t care. The little-known fact is that the governing boards of major Republican contributors such as the Chamber of Commerce and the Oklahoma State Medical Association overlap with the boards and supporters of secularist, pro-choice organizations such as Planned Parenthood.

Legislation limiting embryonic stem cell research or the harvesting of women’s bodies for eggs has repeatedly gone down in flames in the Oklahoma legislature, particularly in the Senate. The Chamber and the Medical Association, working together, have a 100% pro-death record for killing pro-life legislation dealing with either of these areas.

By now you may be getting antsy and a more than a little angry with me. “Is she trying to tell me to change my party? Does she honestly want me to believe that the Democrats are better?”

The answer is nope and nope.

Don’t change your party, whichever party you are in. And the Democrats are definitely not better.

What I want you to do for now is take the partisan blinders off and realize that there is no way you can go into the polls and “Vote Pro Life.” You have to vote for people, and some of the people you vote for will be liars.

No matter what they say at campaign time, very few of the people in either party care about the issues of life. That is the truth as I know it.

Don’t despair. There are things we can do. I’ll get to them.

It’s enough for today to know the equation. It’s a simple one:  I Vote Pro Life = Slogan Voting


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